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Old Kona Airport to close in August for cleanup

Updated: 
July 12, 2017 - 1:53pm

KAILUA-KONA — The Old Kona Airport Park will be closed for two days in August to facilitate park cleanup efforts, county officials announced Wednesday.

The Department of Parks and Recreation will close the area starting at 7 a.m. Aug. 9 and it will remain closed into Aug. 10.

The plan has been months in the making, as public outcry over the increasing number of homeless residing in the park has grown louder.

An initial cleanup was scheduled for April, but those dates were postponed at the behest of Mayor Harry Kim, who wanted to move quickly but also effectively.

Sources of complications to the effort included where to send the dozens of homeless who call the park home and how to ensure their permanent departure after the cleanup concludes.

Anyone camping at or using the park is being asked to leave prior to and during the closure and cleanup, according to a press release.

No camping in the park will be allowed after the park cleanup and police enforcement of park rules, which has ratcheted up in recent months, will be more stringent moving forward.

“Social service agencies, County Office of Housing and Community Development, Parks and Recreation personnel and Hawaii Police Department are actively making site visits and notifying people camping at the park about the transitional/emergency shelters around the island,” said Charmaine Kamaka, director of Parks and Recreation.

Some homeless have said they aren’t interested in vacating the park and will return as soon as it reopens. Those who do are likely to find less cover, as Kamaka said part of the cleanup will entail trimming back the brush on the beaches, making for less privacy and fewer places to conceal a campsite.

For those homeless who are interested in moving indoors, Hawaii County Assistant Housing Administrator Lance Niimi and several service providers like HOPE Services Hawaii are working to clear shelter space as the first step toward more permanent housing situations.

Various county departments, community groups, organizations and individuals are assisting with the cleanup event. Volunteers are also being sought for cleanup efforts.

Those interested in volunteering can call Kamaka at 961-8561 or email Charmaine.kamaka@hawaiicounty.gov.

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